Tag Archives: deciduous

The Blushing Beauties of the Spring Garden

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Many Japanese maples exhibit beautiful spring color

We expect the color blast in our spring garden to come from flowers – daffodils, tulips, bleeding heart and primroses  are just a few I am enjoying in my own garden right now. But have you noticed all the colorful foliage – and its not just that fresh shade of green we have been coveting all winter.

The leaves of many perennials, shrubs and trees display warm shades of copper, rose and burgundy as they unfurl even if they mature to green or yellow.

Double Play Gold spirea

Double Play Gold spirea

Double Play Gold spirea (Spirea japonica

Perhaps the best known shrubs for warming the early spring garden this way are the birchleaf spirea. I have several groups of the one shown here and they create a striking splash of color, especially when seen against a backdrop of evergreens. The foliage will eventually transition to a warm gold but it will continue to produce copper colored new growth all summer (mainly because the deer keep deadheading the shrubs….)

if you only want to treat yourself to one shrub this spring make it a spirea. Better still get three. Or five.

The new growth of peonies reminds me of hands closed in prayer

The new growth of peonies reminds me of interlaced fingers

Peonies

I was fortunate to find several peonies in our garden when we moved here but as is usually the case I have no idea what varieties they are. Regardless, I have some with deep pink flowers with gorgeous burgundy toned leaves and others with softer pink blooms and a bronze-green leaf. It is the latter peony that is pictured here and I was fascinated to notice the two-tone color as the leaves were slowly unfolding. So pretty.

Red barrenwort - also known as Bishop's hat in the UK

Red barrenwort – also known as Bishop’s hat in the UK

Red barrenwort (Epimedium rubrum)

This may be one of the most common barrenwort but every year I look forward to the intense spring color on the heart shaped leaves.

The flowers emerge in March and as dainty as they are, after just a few weeks they are spent. That’s when the new colorful foliage quickly fills in to create mounds of these luscious leaves. Stunning.

Many of the orange-toned Heuchera have vibrant new growth in spring

Many of the orange-toned Heuchera have vibrant new growth in spring

Coral bells (Heuchera)

I think the hybrid shown above is Caramel but many of the warm colored coral bells have similar spring colors e.g. Peach Flambe, Creme Brulee and Marmalade. The layers of spring color are totally delicious!

Jade Frost sea holly

Jade Frost sea holly

Jade Frost sea holly (Eryngium planum ‘Jade Frost’)

This drought tolerant perennial has a more delicate blush than the others I have shared, the pretty pink margins only being really noticeable in cooler weather – both spring and fall.

Summer will bring spires of blue and white teasel-like flowers but as is always the case it is the foliage that spans the seasons.

What are your favorite spring plants that bring a warm glow to the garden?

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Four Season Fabulosity!

IMG_0585I’m a lazy gardener – or at least I prefer to choose how much work to do rather than feeling overwhelmed by a ‘to do’ list. I suspect I’m not alone…………..

So here is a container for you that looks this good ALL YEAR! This would be a perfect combo on a shady porch where you can enjoy the lush foliage and see the seasonal changes. That’s right – even though all the plants here are evergreen they all change in some way during the year, either in color or because they have flowers. See the plant profiles below to see how they strut their stuff.

Clockwise from top;

Paprika coral bells (Heuchera) – spicy round leaves add a punch of heat to this combo. White flowers in spring combine with extra hot colors for a show stopping display. Zones 4-9

Silver dragon lily turf (Liriope spicata ‘Silver Dragon’) – an underused grassy plant with attractive green and yellow variegated leaves. This is a wonderful evergreen plant for the shade, a bonus being spikes of blue flowers in summer. Approx 12″ high and spreads slowly to form clumps 18″ wide. Zones 6-11

Black mondo grass (Ophiopogon planiscapus ‘Nigrescens’) – this jet black grass is a favorite of ours for giving a sophisticated touch. It has lilac flowers in spring followed by black berries. Love it! Zones 5-10. to 6″ tall and spreads slowly in clumps

Lime rickey coral bells (Heuchera) – there’s nothing quite like a splash of chartreuse to wake things up and this coral bells does just that. Clouds of little white flowers in spring add sparkle. To 18″ tall and wide. Zones 4-9

Autumn fern (Dryopteris erythrosora) – although mostly green in this photo this fern gets the most glorious coppery shades on the new fronds and despite its name produces these almost year round. Can’t have enough of these in my shade garden! To 3′ x 3′ but enjoy in containers while smaller. Zones 5-9

Rainbow drooping fetterbush (Leucothoe fontanesiana ‘Rainbow’) – a mouthful of a name for a pretty variegated plant. Marbled shades of cream, green and pink intensify to deep burgundy in winter – can you imagine how fabulous that looks with the chartreuse?! Deer resistant, drought tolerant and low maintenance – my kind of plant. Zones 5-9. to 3′ tall and wide or greater but can be clipped to keep small.

Mikawa Yatsubusa Japanese maple (Acer palmatum ‘Mikawa Yatsubusa’) – a very special dwarf Japanese maple whose leaves overlap one another like shingles on a roof. Spring color is light green fading to mid green. In fall the foliage turns golden orange with burgundy tips (This photo was taken in October, just as the fall tints were beginning to develop). Smooth green bark adds winter interest. Great for bonsai. To 4′ tall in a container. Zones 5-9

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New Leaves for 2014

As seed catalogs replace Christmas cards in the mailbox the planning begins! Although I am always ready for a break from regular weeding and hoeing by October it never seems to dampen the giddy excitement as I consider those glossy photographs and ponder my choices for the New Year. Yet those catalogs only show you a few of the new offerings and rarely focus on cool new foliage plants so we thought we’d share some with you here. Start your 2014 foliage wish list!

Sunjoy® Tangelo barberry (Berberis th. ‘Sunjoy Tangelo’)

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Late season color. Photo credit; Proven Winners

I know barberries are listed as invasive in many States so for those of you who cannot – or prefer not to grow this shrub just skip ahead!

Before I moved to my deer-plagued garden I had little interest in these thorny shrubs but I have since completely changed my tune. I can rely on these in less than favorable circumstances AND their wide range of foliage colors offers the potential for endless new combinations.

So what’s special about this one? Bright and cheery, this new barberry has tangy orange foliage that is often accentuated by a distinctive chartreuse margin. Stronger growing than other variegated cultivars, it is a medium-sized shrub to 4′ wide and tall. Like all barberries it needs full sun for the best color and is drought tolerant once established. Hardy in zones 4a-8b.

Foliage combination ideas

Try underplanting this with Lemon Fizz lavender cotton (Santolina virens) to pick up on those bright green margins. Alternatively Ogon spirea (Spiraea th. ‘Ogon’) has finely textured foliage also in a golden-yellow that turns orange in fall. Since this grows to the same size as the barberry they would make quite the fiery duo!

Glow Girl™ Birchleaf Spirea (Spiraea sp.)

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Spring flowers and foliage

My love affair with spirea has grown for much the same reason as it has with barberries – they come in fun colors and are both deer resistant and drought tolerant. I’ve never been terribly partial to the pink flowers on chartreuse varieties, however, so Glow Girl grabbed my attention thanks to its vivid lime green leaves and white flowers which give the shrub a wonderful fresh appearance.

Glow Girl holds its color well and doesn’t burn in the summer. Since it also offers great fall color this is a true three-season shrub.

Fall color is equally lovely. Photo credit; Proven Winners

Fall color is equally lovely.

At 3-4′ tall and wide this spirea is well suited to the middle of the border where it will be happy in part or full sun. It tolerates a wide variety of soil conditions and is hardy in zones 3a-9b. Whats’ not to love?!

Foliage combination ideas

Pair this with the fluffy silver foliage of Silver Mound wormwood (Artemisia schmidtiana) in sunny, dry spots or if you have part shade and moisture retentive soils the evergreen autumn fern (Dryopteris erythrosora) would bring shades of copper to the display.

Tiny Wine™ Ninebark (Physocarpus opulifolious)

A new option for dark foliage. Photo credit; Proven Winners

A new option for dark foliage.

Christina and I both love  ninebarks and have enjoyed using the dwarf ‘Little Devil‘ in container designs where its rich chocolate leaves add excitement to pink, orange or yellow companions. Here is a new introduction for 2014 which promise to be more petite still at 3-4′ tall and wide with a good upright habit.

Tiny Wine appears to be bushier and to have smaller leaves than Little Devil too resulting in a shrub that appears to be more balanced in scale. Even though we are most interested in the foliage we have to concede that the flower show is exceptional, with dainty flowers blooming up and down each stem in late spring.

Attractive flower buds, blooms and seed heads add to the diplay

Attractive flower buds, blooms and seed heads add to the display

Ninebarks are tolerant of many soil types, do well in full sun or part shade and are hardy in zones 3a-7b.

Foliage combination ideas

For a three season combo the variegated pink foliage of My Monet weigela (Weigela florida) would echo the ninebark flowers in spring while creating an artistic medley for summer and fall.

Anna’s Magic Ball™ Arborvitae (Thuja occidentalis)

 
What a cutie!

What a cutie!

I had the pleasure of testing this in my garden and just loved its puffball demeanor. Even after weeks of low temperatures and hard frost this golden ball shines. I use dwarf conifers a lot in containers but there are relatively few that stay small – this one fills that role nicely with its mature size being listed as 10-15″.

Average water and  average soil makes this an easy care conifer for zones 3a-7b. Definitely one to look out for in 2014.

Foliage combination ideas

Blue and gold make great color partners so I might try this with the low growing Blue Star juniper (Juniperus squamata ‘Blue Star’) or the striking Beyond Blue fescue grass (Festuca glauca ‘Beyond Blue’).

Wild Romance hebe (Hebe hybrid)

A new hebe to look for

A new hebe to look for

Just look at those leaves! Dark green foliage turns to deep burgundy at the end of each stem in winter and spring, mellowing to a lighter red in summer. For those who want flowers you will enjoy the purple display in early summer.

The leaves are smaller than many variegated hebe resulting in a more delicate appearance. When grown as an evergreen shrub it will reach 24-30″ tall and wide but I would expect half that when grown as a summer annual

Hebe are drought tolerant, deer resistant and prefer full sun and well-drained soil. Wild Romance is hardy in zones 7b-9a – enjoy it as an annual elsewhere

Foliage Combination ideas

I would look for bolder foliage companions such as the dark, fleshy rosettes of black rose (Aeonium arboreum var. atropurpureum ‘Zwartkop’) and one of the chartreuse sweet potato vines for an easy container combo perhaps throwing in some of the sun-tolerant hot orange Spitfire coleus for drama.

Which new introductions are you going to try this year? Do leave a comment below or on our Facebook page to tell us.

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Dear Santa; our Foliage Wish List

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Forget the crowded malls and head to your local garden center for that perfect gift for everyone on your list. And while you’re there consider what you’d like Santa to leave in your stocking this year!

Something Naughty (but nice)

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Meet Scallywag. This mischievous little holly has the darkest green foliage – some might say it takes on rich burgundy tones in winter but mine is almost black. The spiky leaves may scratch a bit (the naughty factor) but it has plenty of ‘nice’ attributes too. Scallywag stays compact and has a tidy upright habit making it an attractive candidate for containers when small (see our example here) or as a foundation plant since it matures slowly to approx 4′ tall. The fact that it is deer resistant makes it far nicer than naughty in my book. Hardy in zones 5-9.

Something Sexy

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Forget Victoria’s Secret – look for this sexy little number; Dusty Miller (Senecio cineraria). I know, the name isn’t very sexy – maybe try it with an Italian accent???

Like silver velvet this sensuous foliage will have you unabashedly stroking the sexy leaves and dreaming of…… well we’ll leave that to your imagination! The good news is that this evergreen perennial (or tender perennial in colder areas) is cheaper than a pair of silk stockings and will last much longer.

Vital statistics; 12-18″ tall, lacy or less risque cultivars available, sun or part shade, Hardy in zones 8-10 but can also do well in protected areas in zone 7.

Something Glamorous

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What says glamour to you? To me it means a great shape and vibrant color that catches the eye yet isn’t too ‘Las Vegas’. So let me give you a preview of a stunning addition to the gardening world which will debut on the foliage fashion runway spring 2014 – Persian Spire Persian ironwood (Parrotia persica ‘Persian Spire’).

This columnar tree has it all – attractive foliage, spidery red winter flowers and a slender silhouette. In spring the leaves emerge with a purple cast and as they mature the purple margin remains while the inner leaf turns green. Fall is when it really gets the glamour going, however, as the foliage takes on shades of orange, red, gold and purple the display lasting for many weeks.

Once seen, never forgotten. Worth the IOU from Santa!

To 25′ x 10′ but I’m enjoying my young tree in a container. Hardy to zones 5

Something Sparkly

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Like a little bling in your leaves? Then we think you’ll like the metallic, shimmery leaves of silverbush (Convolvulus cneorum), sometimes also known as bush morning glory. Use this to add a little pizzazz to a skirt of black mondo grass (Ophiopogon planiscapus ‘Nigrescens’) for a year round fashion statement in a partially sunny area or deep burgundy sedum in hot sun (e.g. Red Dragon sedum).

This little dazzler is a Mediterranean native so is drought tolerant and reliably hardy in zones 8-10 (although I also had success with it in Zone 7). It needs very well drained soil and does best in full sun although again mine was gorgeous in partial sun only.

Something Lacy

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Well if the sexy little number I suggested above didn’t quite do it for you perhaps you need something a little more see-through? What about a Himalayan maidenhair fern (Adiantum venustem)? Delicate layers of soft green, lacy leaves are held high on slender black stems. Far from being summer attire only this provocative (ground)hugger will delight you year round.

Keep this in the shadows for your ultimate viewing pleasure. Hardy in zones 5-8

What’s on your wish list?

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Frosted Fine Foliage

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It’s that time of year to reach for your woolly sweaters and furry slippers; unless you live in balmy Arizona of course. Here in Seattle we had our first frost this past week as well as a significant windstorm. Two big Douglas fir trees came down in our forest, a huge chunk of one of our ornamental pear trees snapped off (thankfully without doing damage to the nearby Japanese maples) and many previously beautiful fall trees were left naked. Is this the end of our leafy love affair you ask? NO! A well designed garden always has beautiful foliage to offer, even when frosted. Take a walk through the garden with me and see what I mean.

1. Conifers, deciduous trees, grasses and seed heads offer the perfect stage for Jack Frost to play.

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As I dashed outside with my camera the sun was just beginning to peek over the trees. Such magical lighting is ephemeral but I was able to capture the frozen grasses and seed heads before the suns rays melted the icy jewels.

2. Frost can add a new texture to the garden

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Conifers add a bold stroke to the border yet when dusted with frost this Feelin’ Blue deodar cedar (Cedrus deodara ‘Feelin’ Blue’) has a delicate quality.

3. Fleeting beauty; anticipation and appreciation

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Just hours after this photo was taken the last of the golden spirea leaves dropped to the ground. Combined with softly textured yet frozen grasses such as this Mexican feather grass (Stipa tenuissima) this just says ‘autumn’ to me.

4. Rich colors are even more stunning when dusted with ice

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This Exbury azalea is a head turner in spring with its golden yellow, fragrant blooms. Yet I wonder if I prefer this time of year since the fiery fall color lasts for many weeks and is even more striking when etched with frost.

Just because many trees and shrubs have now lost their leaves doesn’t mean your garden should be lacking in interest. A good balance of  conifers, broad leaf evergreens, deciduous trees, perennials and grasses will have you celebrating the new season and exploring new ways to design with foliage.

Denver Botanic Garden

Denver Botanic Garden

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Big Picture Foliage Color

IMG_4646We are so fortunate to live in the Northwest with an abundance of Japanese maples to ogle every year in four seasons. This week, I went to the Washington Park Arboretum to enjoy the fall colors and get design ideas. For this particular weeks blog post, if you can take the ideas here and springboard from the maples to whatever shrub or tree that is appropriate to your own particular climate, you will get the most out of it.

I would like you to take a look at the size and shape of the plants in relationship to one another and how the layers of vivid color show the foliage at its finest. The focal point Weeping Japanese Maple in the photo above could be many gold foliage colored shrubs, evergreen OR deciduous. With this thoughtful planning, it is a BOLD autumn statement with the orange and fiery coral trees in the background.

IMG_4669We tend to rely on gold foliage a lot in our predominantly gray, mild climate in the Northwest. This example of a gold Weeping Birch defines the form even better as it loses its leaves, but the supporting players in this big picture vignette are as vibrant as ever. Check out the layers of color!

IMG_4693This spectacular Oxydendrum or Sourwood tree with its dangly white seed-heads from summer blooms is the Matriarch in this scene. The red and gold Japanese maples in the foreground are certainly showing off as youngsters will, but SHE always has the upper hand in this grouping, she is only just beginning to strut her stuff!

IMG_4723A giant blue-green Sequoia positively dwarfs this fall gold Horse Chestnut tree. Now, THAT is long-term thinking for color and layering in the landscape right there!

IMG_4748I was positively entranced when I came around the corner to see this Stewartia Monodelpha. It was the only tree of color in the whole area and the burgundy/red foliage with the russet red bark were the height of elegance against an entirely green backdrop.

IMG_4863This picture in the Washington Park Arboretum Japanese Garden was one that illustrated the point this week best I think. The two amazingly citrus yellow Ginkgo trees and one lime green, side by side amongst the layers of cedar, spruce, pines and maples are stand-out examples of my point.

IMG_4876Think about the bigger picture when planning out your trees and shrubs. If you have the luxury of thinking long-term for your landscape, or even if you won’t be living with your current garden years from now, think of the next gardener to enjoy it, and try to keep in mind how amazing your fall color can be with the large-scale foliage color layers. This is a skill that will come in handy during the hot, sexy rush of spring planting.

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Six Ways to Make the Most of Fall Foliage

IMG_6759There is no doubt about it – we have left summer behind. Instead of waking up to clear blue skies we are more likely to see grey storm clouds rolling in. The good news is that just because the sky is changing color doesn’t mean our gardens  have to. In fact if we focus on FOLIAGE fall can be one of the most vibrant seasons in the garden.

The key, however, is knowing how to create vignettes in the landscape to make the most of our fall foliage. Here are a few ideas to get you started.

1. Create a vignette around a sculpture, container or other focal point in your garden.

Use a beautiful container

Use a beautiful container as a focal point

In summer this grass is a delicate teal-blue, a perfect complement to the rustic container. In fall, as the grass takes on warm earth tones, the partnership changes. Now the grass echoes the brown pot rim as well as playing into the deeper shades of the container glaze.

Look behind the container and note the fall color of a Japanese maple. This repeats the colors found in the grass, adding depth to the scene.

One pot, two seasonal vignettes – it’s all about the foliage.

2. Focus on textures

IMG_1284This is a Japanese maple of unknown heritage. It was given to me by a friend as a 6″ cutting and after several years is still only a petite 5′ tall, yet its fall color is remarkable and deserves to be showcased. How to do that without overwhelming this small tree?

Rather than adding bold contrasting color nearby I elected instead to use  wispy tan grasses. Thieir delicate texture allows the small maple foliage to be the star in this garden scene.

3. Use existing structures as a backdrop for exciting foliageIMG_1217The paperbark maple (Acer griseum) is a year round, five star tree known primarily for its cinnamon colored peeling bark – a highlight of the winter garden. However its fall foliage is also outstanding, turning fiery shades of coral, rose and amber over a period of several weeks. The warm brown cedar shingles of the nearby cabin are a perfect foil for such bright leaves.

4. Take advantage of a borrowed landscape

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The beautiful maple in the foreground is Acer palmatum Koto-no-ito which means ‘harp strings’; a very apt name for the fine, thread-like foliage. The tree is so delicate, however, that I was unsure how to plant around it. I wanted to showcase its fall color yet not compete with its shape. The answer was to become a virtual-thief!

Our property boundary lies just behind the two red leaved American sweetgum trees (Liquidambar styraciflua) seen above - beyond that is a neighboring parcel of land. From this perspective my beautiful maple tree is framed initially by the sweetgums and then by the glorious yellow and gold of the distant alders and cottonwoods. I’ve ‘borrowed’ them to use in my own fall foliage vignette. Shhhh

5. Create windows to reveal smaller beautiesIMG_1354In my large garden it is easy for small trees to get ‘lost’ no matter how beautiful their fall color. One solution has been to limb up this row of ornamental pear trees to create windows into the woodland beyond. Notice the vivid orange Lions Head maple (Acer shishigashira) and crimson Purple Ghost maple (Acer p. ‘Purple Ghost’) are revealed as specimens by doing this.

6. Go for all out COLOR!IMG_4150Don’t be bashful – go for high contrast! This Grace smoke bush (Cotinus coggygria ‘Grace’)  is fabulous no matter where you put it, but look how striking the early fall foliage is when combined with the sunny yellow ash trees. No apologies needed – just have FUN.

And that’s what our fall gardens should be – an all out  FOLIAGE PARTY. As you visit the nursery for your new foliage treasure ask yourself how best to showcase it? Maybe you need to buy a few more plants to keep it company???

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Top 5 Scrumptious Shrubs for Lazy Gardeners

I’m a keen gardener but I’m also a lazy gardener. How does that work? I like to play in the garden rather than be a slave to it so my landscape designs rely heavily on easy care, no-fuss shrubs with outstanding foliage.

To earn their place in my garden they have to be drought tolerant, deer resistant, disease free and not require staking, feeding or pruning. Bonus marks if they have four season interest! A Tough order? You bet!

Here are the winners that meet ALL those criteria!

Spirea (Spiraea japonica cultivars)

Many spirea have this gorgeous copper color in spring

Many spirea have this gorgeous copper color in spring as well as great fall color

There are lots of reasons to love spirea – drought tolerance, copper color in spring, rosy new growth, great fall color. My favorite reason, however, is that I have the last laugh over the deer. You see these shrubs typically have clusters of pink flowers, which are nice enough but I  am really only interested in the foliage. So when deer nibble the flowers off they save me from deadheading and promote this colorful new growth! Works for me.

Magic Carpet is perhaps the best known cultivar (pictured here) but there are many others. I especially like Double Play Big Bang (Spiraea japonica ‘Tracy’) which seems to hold its color better, and which also provides the deer with extra large flowers.

USDA zones: 4 to 9 (find your zone)
Water: Average – low
Light requirement: Full sun or partial shade
Mature size: 3 feet tall and 3 feet wide
Why I love it:  drought tolerant when established, deer resistant-ish!! and outstanding foliage color
Seasonal interest: Spring, summer and fall

Old Fashioned smoke bush (Cotinus coggygria ‘Old Fashioned’)

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I haven’t met a smoke bush I didn’t like but this one is special; just look at that gorgeous blue-green foliage. Burgundy veins, creamy white flowers and orange fall color round out the scrumptious factor for Old Fashioned

USDA zones: 5 to 10 (find your zone)
Water: Average – low
Light requirement: Full sun or partial shade
Mature size: 6 feet tall and 5 feet wide
Why I love it: Cut flowers, drought tolerant when established, deer resistant (my deer nibbled it the first year but have ignored it since)
Seasonal interest: Spring, summer and fall

Orange Rocket barberry (Berberis thunbergii ‘Orange Rocket’)

Orange Rocket barberry makes a stunning color combo with the red tipped switch grass 'Shenandoah'

Orange Rocket barberry makes a stunning color combo with the red tipped switch grass  ‘Shenandoah’

When voracious deer roam your garden you stop being a plant snob. You worry less about about a plants pedigree than you do about its longevity. That is why you’ll find an assortment of barberries throughout my garden.

My top barberry pick is Orange Rocket for its appealing columnar shape and ruby foliage which turns citrus orange in fall. I’ve used it in containers with Tropicanna Gold canna and love it in the garden paired with Shenandoah switch grass (Panicum virgatum ‘Shenandoah’) shown above.

USDA zones: 4 to 9 (find your zone)
Water: Low
Light requirement: Full sun for best color
Mature size: 4 1/2 feet tall and 1 1/2  feet wide
Why I love it: drought tolerant, deer resistant, good for containers, in small spaces or as a vertical accent
Seasonal interest: Spring, summer and fall

Goshiki false holly (Osmanthus heterophyllus ‘Goshiki’)

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Prickly as a hedgehog, this holly look-alike adds great color to the garden while thwarting the deer. Its evergreen spiny leaves are mottled green and gold with the new growth being a warm rose tone.

Buy these in smaller sizes to incorporate into your container designs then transplant into the garden. Mine have even survived a large tree branch falling on them, new growth quickly filling in the rather sad bare patch.

Even though I did not water my shrubs once this summer, they still look fabulous. A great primp-free shrub.

USDA zones: 6 to 9 (find your zone)
Water: Average - Low
Light requirement: Full sun or part shade
Mature size: 3-5 feet tall and 4 feet wide but can be pruned to keep shorter if you’ve nothing else to do
Why I love it: drought tolerant, deer resistant, good for containers, makes an attractive low hedge, evergreen
Seasonal interest: year round

Parney’s cotoneaster (Cotoneaster lacteus)

Robins love to feast on these Cotoneaster berries

Robins love to feast on these Cotoneaster berries

If you’ve a big space to fill this arching shrub may be just what you need with its long arching canes, silver-backed evergreen foliage and clusters of white summer flowers followed by glossy red berries. Come February you will be ‘Robin Central’ as word gets out that your garden has the best treats.

Deer did nibble one of my three bushes when first planted – the one that was most convenient to their ‘freeway’, but haven’t bothered since. I have these planted in terrible clay soil that stays moist most of the year and they are thriving. I have not watered them once since they were planted two years ago!

USDA zones: 7 to 10 (find your zone)
Water: Average –  Low
Light requirement: Full sun or partial shade
Mature size: 8 feet tall and 8  feet wide but can be pruned/whacked as needed
Why I love it: drought tolerant, deer resistant, birds love the berries, summer flowers
Seasonal interest: year round

What’s your favorite stress-free shrub with a major scrumptious factor?

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Colorful Canopy – Trees and Layering

Sometimes we get the trees we have in our landscape because we inherit them with the property. Other times we get to choose our trees. Oh, the myriad of possibilities we have to choose from. When we get to choose several it can very nearly be decadent and dripping with the amazing number of choices at our disposal these days. Our grandparents never had it so good!

So, when we do get the luxury of choosing our trees, a good thing to think about would be if you can layer a few of them together and create a living tapestry of color. This is exactly what I noted in a few gardens recently. It really struck me how large-scale foliage options had such great impact in the landscape, on a relatively modest sized lot or on large country acreage.

IMG_2399.CR2The layers upon layers of this spectacular Cornus controversa ‘Variegata’, often called the “Wedding Cake Tree” were striking against the soft blue backdrop of the Pine and the rich gold of the conifer and Japanese Maple in the foreground. Imagine this same scene with a green foliage tree. It wouldn’t have nearly the impact that this texture and color bring to the scene.

IMG_2575Facing the street , these trees help to create a screen of color. The Flowering Plum backs up this grouping and creates the perfect foil for one of my very favorite trees, the Arizona Cypress ‘Blue Pyramid’. Even on a cloudy day, these colors would still be rich and luscious, not to mention the beautiful textures together.

IMG_2789I was fortunate to see yet another Cornus controversa ‘Variegata’ in this garden but this time with my other favorite tree (Karen’s too) the Robinia pseudoacaciaFrisia‘, a true stunner if there ever was one. Sunshine in the form of a tree. But, what a sophisticated pairing this makes! Soft, glowing and yet very 21st century in its color scheme.

What trees would YOU layer together in your perfect world? Drop us line and let us know. Or post your pic on the Fine Foliage page on Facebook!

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Liquid Sunshine

A simple wooden bench placed strategically beneath a golden locust tree

A simple wooden bench placed strategically beneath a golden locust tree

Have you noticed that there are certain plants which you seem to always need in your garden? Perhaps they rekindle fond memories or simple make you feel happy.

The golden locust tree (Robinia pseudoacacia ‘Frisia’) is my signature tree. Since we moved to the USA we have had at least one in every garden and right now I have FIVE! Funnily enough it is  Christina’s favorite too. Why? It’s all about the FOLIAGE.

Sit or stand beneath the canopy as sunlight streams through and you will be bathed in an unforgettable pool of gold. The slightest breeze will whisper secrets through the translucent leaves. It will make you smile.

Here are some ideas on how to incorporate one (or more) into your garden.

Balance the height of a tall house

Kirkland

Photo courtesy of Windermere Realty

Without the golden locust tree on the right the mass of this house would be overwhelming on such a small lot.

Add shade to a seating area

Photo courtesy of Windermere Realty

Photo courtesy of Windermere Realty

A partially secluded patio feels more intimate – and cooler with the filtered shade provided by this tall tree beyond the sitting area.

Use one or more as a trail marker

IMG_5292

Use a single specimen as a way to indicate the start of a garden path or several dotted along the way as golden trail markers.

Frame a planting vignette

IMG_5162This flower-rich part of my garden benefits from the bold foliage of a golden locust tree (left) and burgundy ‘Grace’ smoke bush (Cotinus x coggygria ‘Grace’).

Use it to establish a soothing monochromatic scheme

Design by Dan Hinkley, McComb Gardens, Sequim, WA

Design by Dan Hinkley, McComb Gardens, Sequim, WA

The soft tones of ‘African Queen’ lilies are all the more stunning set against the golden backdrop

Use it to create ‘garden moments’ of high contrast

IMG_2193Vivacious magenta spider flowers (Cleome) really bring drama to the summer border when paired with such acid yellow foliage

Enjoy the fall foliage too

IMG_0742A new season, a new look. As the leaves turn from chartreuse to rich gold opportunities arise for fresh combinations. Here they highlight the last of the black eyed Susan’s (Rudbeckia ‘Goldsturm’), warm tones of Crocosmia seed heads and peeling cinnamon bark of the paperbark maple tree (Acer griseum).

Plant details

Botanical name: Robinia pseudoacacia ‘Frisia’
Common name: Golden locust tree
Where it will grow: Hardy to -30′F (USDA climate zones 4 to 9) Find your zone 
Water requirement: Low once established
Light requirement: Full sun for best color but also partial shade
Mature size: 30 to 50 feet tall and up to 20 feet wide
Season of interest: spring-fall
When to plant: Plant it in well-drained soil in spring or fall.

Caution: Golden locust trees may produce suckers although I have never had a single one from all my trees

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